New Data Visualization Shows Massive Climate Benefit of Water Conservation

LA Waterkeeper says State Water Board’s weakening of drought regulations harms our environment

LOS ANGELES, June 3, 2016 — Data compiled by the University of California Davis Center for Water-Energy Efficiency shows that the state’s nearly 25 percent reduction in water usage also reduced electricity usage in the state. In fact, according to the analysis, it did so more than all of the other energy efficiency practices undertaken during the same time period combined, and at less than a third of the cost of those measures. Los Angeles Waterkeeper says the State Water Resources Control Board needlessly softened a cost-effective program that successfully saved resources and lowered the state’s carbon footprint.

“It is confounding that the State Water Board would undermine one of the most effective water conservation programs in this country; one that also slows climate change and reduces air pollution by lessening electricity demand,” says LA Waterkeeper Executive Director Bruce Reznik. “It is even more perplexing that its decision came on the heels of the same agency recognizing the groundbreaking work of Frank Loge at UC Davis in response to the Board’s desire to have better data with which to make decisions.”

The information was provided as part of the State Water Board’s 2106 #CAWaterDataDive data innovation challenge that asked participants to use open water data and crowdsourcing to find better ways to inform about water in California.

Shortly after the release of the landmark information, however, the State Water Board significantly weakened its emergency drought regulations, allowing water districts — many of which have actively opposed conservation mandates — to essentially set their own standards through a self-certification standard. The State Water Board also decided to allow regional aggregation conservation standards rather than focusing on reduction requirements for each water district.

“We need to stop short-term thinking about water that lurches us from crisis to crisis,” says Reznik. “In order to ensure that over the long run we can deliver clean, safe water to all of our communities in a way that is sustainable, equitable and cost-effective, California needs permanent water conservation regulations. It is great to know that such conservation requirements will also have profound benefits to our climate and air quality, while lessening demand on our electricity infrastructure.”

Using data visualization, the University of California Davis shows a summary of water use relative to the conservation target for each district and calculates the electricity savings associated with the reduced water demand. According to the data, water conservation saved 460 gigawatt hours of energy during the conservation mandate, more than energy-efficient appliances, air conditioning units, indoor and outdoor lighting other traditional energy efficiency measures combined — 459.4 gigawatt hours. More impressively, these benefits were achieved at a cost of $44.8 million; far less than the $172.6 million spent on traditional energy efficiency measures. All told, water conservation-related greenhouse gas savings over the entire period of the mandate represent the equivalent of taking nearly 50,000 cars off the road for a year.

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